The Strain Finale Post-Mortem: Chuck Hogan Explains All, Teases Season 2

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[Spoiler Alert: Do not read on unless you've watched the season finale of The Strain. Trust me!]

Now that's how you do a season finale.

Last night's The Strain Season 1 Episode 13 did what any good finale should do: it delivered on both big moments, while answering a few questions and also raising many more.

Who are the three beings that Quinlan introduced to Gus? Why did Kelly live? Will young Jake needs years of therapy? Is the rest of the world dealing with the same vamp outbreak? Is Eph going back to being a drunk? 

While the bad news is that we'll have to wait until 2015 for new episodes, the good news is I jumped on the phone to talk with Chuck Hogan who, along with Guillermo del Toro, co-created the series, which is based on their book. Hogan talked about we saw on Sunday night, while also giving a a wee glimpse into what we'll see when fresh installments arrive next year...

TV Fanatic: What were your feelings going into the finale? Any nerves?

Chuck Hogan: I don’t feel nervous at all. I feel like people who have been with us from the beginning, which I assume are most people watching the finale will really get that. We’ll see a lot of things pay off throughout the season. The great thing we had and one of the luxuries we had, we had a lot of prep time, so we were writing way ahead of production and plus having the book as a guideline so we were really able to sketch out these 13 episodes the way we wanted to, so we’re paying off a lot of things that go back even to the first episode.

TVF: With what we see in the finale, was that always kind of the game plan or did that ever change along the way?

CH: No, I mean especially in the last half hour, that was something we’ve been working towards all season. So, no, we had the end point in mind, kind of each step of the way, so it was actually really fun and really kind of great to reach that point that we’ve been sprinting towards this entire season.

TVF: Is it wrong, Chuck, that I was kind of hoping Eldritch would throw that woman off the balcony? I’m obviously an awful person.

CH: [laughs] No, it’s good. For the first time in his life, [Eldritch] feels really healthy, and he’s got a lot of animosity over the years and all of a sudden he’s someone that’s doing what he likes instead of having to connive and kind of plan his way around it he was able to take direct action. I think it was kind of awesome.

TVF: I’ve been waiting to figure out Gus’s role in all this since he’s been a bit on the periphery of things but, of course, we get that answer. Tell me about your intentions with Gus as far as the viewers connecting with him. He’s also never been that shaken by what’s been going around him, which I kind of like.

CH: Yeah, he, as opposed to mostly everyone else, it’s actually quite different from the books because in the books, he crosses with Setrakian early on in jail and so they have some sort of relationship. I think one of the fun parts of the show is yes you’ve got Setrakian who has been hunting vampires forever but you have someone like Gus who has no idea what this is and he’s just reacting to it.

I remember, going back to the start of the books, Guillermo and I, we really wanted to have not just the scientists fighting this but some ordinary people being the exterminator, who, you know, had some experience, knowledge, in a general sense and was able to apply it in an interesting way, or someone like Gus, who is coming at it from his own experience which, everything is bewildering to him, and he’s just reacting and figuring out on his own without the aid of any education or past experience.

TVF: It seems like money is always his biggest motivator, as soon as somebody promises money, he’s like, “Yeah, I’m in.” Will we see that continue in season two or will he have some different goals enter his vision?

CH: The answer to both those is yes and we will see some more but there’s other things come into play in this; really, really cool and interesting turns coming up.

TVF: I may have missed this in the show but is there any indication that this has spread outside of the New York area at this point? What do we know at this point?

CH: No. I don’t think we’ve said explicitly but there’s some background audio and news reports of things happening in other cities and I believe a plane or two landing in other cities. In New York, it’s obviously quite concentrated and it’s a very serious outbreak but at the same time but if you say ten to fifteen percent of the population has turned, that’s a serious thing but there's a long way to go. But there are indications that it’s spreading outside [but] not as quickly. It’s not like it’s happening around the world the way it’s happening in New York. New York is definitely the epicenter for it. But it’s starting its march outward.

TVF: Any desire to visit those other places in season two?

CH: There is. I think it’s most important to stay in our central place, but yes. We won’t stay locked into New York. No. Not in season two.

TVF: I know you were choosing your words carefully there, so I appreciate the answer,

CH: I am. I am. [laughs]

TVF: Is there any chance Zack isn’t going to be the most f**ked-up little kid with everything he’s seen now?

CH: {laughs] I mean, it’s true. His character is going to go through a lot so you sort of spend season one being kind of a good little, normal little boy but after what happens at the end of the season, I don’t think anyone could experience that, especially someone who’s 11 or 12 years old and not react strongly so it’s definitely traumatic for him in the fallout.

TVF: Was it a big decision for you guys to not kill off Kelly at this point?

CH: No. I mean, there was no way. That was one of the easy. There were very few things that we felt that we absolutely had to carry from the book to the series and that’s one of them. The Eph/Kelly/Zack relationship is kind of fundamental [and] we’ve seen it throughout the season but certainly now it goes to the next level in terms of a custody battle for Zack. Not just for visitation rights or stuff like that, but it would be custody for his whole, if you will. So, no, one of the main things that we’ve been working towards, is what happened at the end of the 13th episode.

TVF: And the fact that Eph does take a drink at the end and there are a couple mentions of his alcoholism in the episode but he also doesn’t seem defeated at this point. Is that how you guys meant to play it or is there going to be some question about his sobriety?

CH: That’s exactly how we meant to play it. I mean it’s not like he’s going to stumble into alcoholism and be a wreck for season two. It’s more about a kind of accepting things for what they are, realizing that things that he’s been trying haven’t worked and so he’s got to really change his perspective in many different ways and you will see some perfect examples of that.

TVF: When Quinlan is talking to Gus and kind of explaining everything, he says the words “massacre of the unclean.” And I wanted to be clear, is he referring to the vamps? Is he referring to the humans?

CH: He’s referring to the vampires that the Master has turned. They are the unclean especially in terms of the ancients…they're obviously supreme beings. They too could spread their vampire disease if they chose to but they don’t for different reasons.

TVF: Tell me a little bit about these three figures that are tied up. They seem to be pretty important moving forward.

CH: They’re not tied up. They’re just sort of…they are existing there. I really don’t want to say too much, because that’s obviously a big thing. What excites me about them appearing is that it’s not just the Master versus the people. But there is this much bigger story that’s been evolving for some time so this is them getting into the fight. That’s the way I see it.

TVF: Are the plans in season two to get more of Quinlan’s back story?

CH: Yes, there is. There's going to be some interesting…but yes. There's going to be some significant developments there with that character.

TVF: Where are you guys at in the course of season two?

CH: We go into production next month and we’ve got a lot of the stories broken out where we’re putting the scripts together so we’re well into it. We’re gearing up to start slaying more vampires and I can’t wait.

The Strain will return for Season 2 in 2015.

Jim Halterman is the West Coast Editor of TV Fanatic and the owner of JimHalterman.com. Follow him on Twitter.

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The Strain Season 1 Episode 13 Quotes

Gus: What the hell are you? If you're planning on eating Mexican tonight you're gonna choke I promise you that shit.
Quinlan: I did not bring you all the way down here to drink you.
Gus: Down here where huh?
Quinlan: Deep underground, somewhere safe.

Setrakian: Since the beginning of creation boys have hunted beside their fathers. This is no different.
Eph: This is very different. We're fighting to protect each other. We're going to get through this and we're gonna win.